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You’ve seen it, liked it, probably even indulged in it at some point. Welcome to the world of social media venting, where people are not afraid to air strong opinions about each and every thing. Ever wondered if there is something much more to venting than letting off steam? According to various studies, it could be a sign of loneliness, depression, anxiety, even borderline personality disorder! But what do millennials think — do they see it as a healthy, harmless expression or a crazy, needy one?

On World Wide Web Day today (August 1), let’s try and decode this online behaviour.

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1. Self-Expression or Seeking Attention

I think there are basically two kinds of people who vent on social media: those who want to express themselves, and those who are looking to grab eyeballs. Of course, there are always going to be many permutations and combinations, but people generally belong to either of these categories. So depending on their reason, topic and the manner in which they are venting, the act can be either healthy or crazy. Irrespective of that, I think terming it as a sign of mental illness is an overstatement.

Communications director Hanadi Falki agrees. She says, “I believe in most cases, a rant cannot be classified as a sign of mental illness. It can merely be a person seeking attention and fame through controversial comments, tweets, or status updates.  On the whole, people react more to negative comments than positive ones. Also, some people get a kick out of ruffling feathers. A rant could also be the act of  a normal person venting his/her frustration on topics that irk them.”

2. The Need to Feel Involved

Wanting to feel like you belong — particularly during trying times — is a basic human need. Sometimes that leads to oversharing, which although embarrassing and awkward, at least lets you put your negative emotions out  in the world. It is this authenticity that beats the false, picture-perfect social media profiles we are so used to seeing.

Author Alcatraz Dey sums it up perfectly. “Social media typically portrays most as having a life without any problems. It is easy to tell ourselves everything is okay and to keep our unexplained problems to ourselves when we see that sharing unexplained distress is not considered ‘cool’. Venting is good because it’s real. When we are struggling, we all want to feel included without being around people, and that is what social media gives us on a silver platter.”

3. A Cry for Help (When Done Repeatedly or Excessively)

Sure, venting is real and healthy when done in moderation. But is a public and permanent platform like the internet really appropriate for it? And when the details get too personal way too often, it is definitely a sign of some sort of mental illness. Or at the very least, loneliness. But then again, there are all kinds of people in the world. So while some may have some serious mental issues that they need to take care of, others might just not understand where to draw the line or how much to share on a public platform. That said, I believe that if you feel that your friends and family members are oversharing on social media, do not ignore it. Talk to them about it; maybe they are struggling with something and are not comfortable talking about it directly. Don’t think it will go away if you ignore it, mental health needs just as much importance as physical health.

In conclusion, all I have to say is this: rants might not change the world or even the ranter’s situation, but at least they give them an outlet to express themselves. And isn’t self-expression a critical part of being social? If it helps detect someone’s mental health struggles, that’s even better! What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar

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